Category Archives: Personal Growth

Seventh Confession: How Falling Taught Me There Truly Is Nothing to Fear, But Fear Itself! :)

An Unexpected Fall:

My little gelding, Spirit, teaches me so much about play, happiness, resilience and just plain old fun.¬† The video above shows him obliviously playing so hard with his ball that he tips himself over, gets up, shakes off the dust and goes on as though nothing had happened ūüôā

One of my biggest fears, as trainer Marianne and I progressed through my training, was to fall.¬† It was the unknown.¬† I had never fallen off a horse before.¬† As a result, even though I’d been experiencing all the strength, feelings of connection and wordless joy when I rode, something in me was still holding back….lest I fall.

As my posting trot and balance grew better and as I was able to do 4 gait transitions (walk, working walk, sitting trot, posting trot) trainer Marianne and I both felt I was ready to begin learning the seated canter.

I hadn’t known this, but the seated canter is actually quite advanced and can take students quite a bit of time to accomplish.¬† She wisely started me with this so that I could learn it from the bottom up…literally ūüôā

We saddled up sweet Buzz, the gelding, in my Western treeless saddle. I love using¬† it because it has a suede seat so that one doesn’t slide around (especially as a beginner) and¬†the seat¬†is shaped almost iike an English Hunter saddle.

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My trusty Western treeless saddle!

After many instructions and descriptions, trainer Marianne¬†hooked Buzz up to the longe line so that she could control that which I might not be able to.¬† We began the trot, then she had me say “Canter up” and AWAY WE WENT!¬† I hadn’t suspected that Buzz would give so much speed and feel so very powerful under me!

As I worked hard to do what trainer Marianne had instructed, it was just too much for me.¬† I called out for her to slow him and relaxed knowing I’d soon be in a nice, comfy trot.

Only, Marianne didn’t hear me!!!

As I relaxed, suddenly the ride became smooth, flowing, graceful and an amazing sensation!

When we finally did get back to a trot, trainer¬†Marianne cried out, “You did it!¬† You sat the canter!¬† On the first try!”

What?¬† So that’s what my body had needed to do to sit it?¬† Not much…sit back, stay centered in your body and balance, don’t lean forward, heels down, strong thighs and go with the horse’s motion.¬† Wow.

The next day, since it had gone so well, Marianne brought out the English Hunter saddle to work the canter.  She again gave instruction, demonstrated, had me do a few laps of posting trot to activate my strength and balance and then hooked Buzz up to the longe line again.

This time, once the trot transitioned to canter, because I’m still building strength and balance, the saddle felt crazy slippery! ¬†I couldn’t even begin to get my seat, I had no idea what my thighs were doing and then I did the absolutely most incorrect thing one can do in a canter.¬† I leaned forward!

Buzz, being a responsive horse, took that to mean he should stop.¬† Then¬†it happened!¬† I slid slowly off the saddle, down the side of his body and into the dust.¬† It all happened in such slow motion that I was actually able to calculate how best to land so as to inflict the least amount of damage ūüôā

I am not being glib, because falling off a horse can have tragic consequences.¬† I was truly¬†blessed my first time. I also learned that the clich√©, “it’s as easy as falling off a horse”, is very true ūüôā

Marianne checked on me, but I was on my feet in a second.¬† She gave me the rundown of what I had done incorrectly but I couldn’t even really hear her.¬† All I could do was take in the fact that, yep, I’d fallen off a horse and that time, at least, it really wasn’t as scary and awful as I had built it up to be!

She wanted to call it a day but I couldn’t.¬† Not until I pulled out my trusty treeless saddle and tried just one more time!¬† Marianne says, at that moment, she learned things about me that she hadn’t even suspected.

So we saddled up, longe lined up, up I hopped and off we went!.¬† It wasn’t for a long stretch of time.¬† Just enough to get to that point of complete synchronization with all body parts, balance, relaxation and connection with horse that caused me to feel like I could ride like that, at that speed, for hours; and never get enough.

As Spirit’s adorable example¬†of falling while immersed in pure, playful joy¬†taught me so much about¬†staying in a mind frame of happiness rather than¬†in dread; this fall taught me¬†that indeed my fear was much worse than the thing I¬†feared.

This fall taught me how good it can be to let oneself risk, play, laugh and love enough… to actually FALL!……………………….from the sheer, wondrous magnitude of it ūüėČ

Spirit jumping poles uninhibitedly!

Spirit jumping poles uninhibitedly!

Spirit in rare form! Playing with all his heart!<3

Spirit in rare form! Playing with all his heart!<3

Sixth Confession: How I Went From “Dread” To Joy!

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The very kind, old, gentleman gelding, Buzz. He made sure I felt safe with him.

An Unexpected Horse Angel, Trainer Marianne:

By the time Trainer Marianne entered our lives in late February 2015, I and my two beloved horses had pretty much become ragged messes.   Only my intense, ferocious love for my two, in spite of my novice ignorance, kept the three of us from cracking wide open with desperation.

I guessed at, but was not fully consciously aware of, the things that had been inflicted on these two horses before they became mine.¬† That, plus my ignorance,¬†coupled with¬†some of the prideful, know-it-all, uneducated barn cronies’ incessant input, combined to create a situation¬†in which¬†I could no longer bear to ride my horses or ANY horse, for that matter.¬†Although I, myself, had never fallen;¬†another woman, who was an experienced horsewoman,¬†had fallen off my gelding during one of our rides,¬†my mare on trail¬†was lifting her head in discomfort, bowing to buck and coming up lame.¬†Plus,¬†the trail “energy” at Treetops Park was becoming increasingly¬†creepy to me. All these elements¬†had driven me into a state, which in the rodeo they call…”The Dread”.

Of course in the rodeo, these cowboys are experiencing massive “wrecks’ which can require months of¬†physical rehab and pain meds.¬† My “wreck” was emotional and spiritual.

I prayed and prayed for the right trainer to come into our lives.¬† It felt like these prayers fell on God’s deaf ears and would be never answered.¬† I¬†did have¬†specific desires¬†for what¬†I required of a trainer. ¬†Perhaps that’s why it took some time ;).

I needed¬†my trainer¬†to partner with the horse, to put the horse first, to not think of a horse as a human commodity and to be able to listen to the “still, small voice within” which,¬†ultimately, manifests in¬†what could be considered: ¬†“Unconventional Training Methods”.

Enter Marianne, Horse Angel. Custom-made for me and my two.

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Marianne, in her horsey, kind way, seeing that Buzz is buckled in. This was his last bit. As of today, we are using a bitless bridle on him. He is so happy

As she began working with and understanding their hurts, needs and lacks in their training, she then turned her focus on me.¬†” Why¬†aren’t you¬†riding?”, she queried.

“Never again”, I adamantly stated.

“But it’s fun”, she cajoled.

“No it’s not.¬† It’s dangerous, It’s a job. I hate it.”

“Okay…”,she conceded.

Then I watched her begin the healing process on my two and my heart began to open.

One day she said, “Buzz is a sweet old gelding who gives his whole heart when he’s doing a horse show even though he’s not a show horse. Come meet him”.

I did.¬† He put his head in my hand and sniffed me all over and allowed me to kiss him… lots! Marianne said, “He never does that.”

I secretly knew he was telling me, “It’s okay, Little One.¬† You¬†would be safe on¬†me.”

So one day, a few weeks later, when Marianne suggested that I just climb on Buzz bareback and she would lead me and him on a lead rope, I said, yes.  I love bareback riding and it was an irresistible offer.

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Marianne leads me on a bareback ride on Buzz

We rode for maybe 15 minutes.¬† When I dismounted I knew I was “back”.

Marianne never pushed.¬† She always waited for me to ask.¬† But, in time, I was asking and asking.¬† Let me ride him bareback again.¬† A hunter saddle?¬† Let me try that.¬† My western treeless saddle?¬† Amazing connection with every muscle in the horse’s back! ¬†Balance? Centered riding?¬†Thighs? Core?

In time, the superb details and the kindness with which she imparted them, caused me to anticipate each lesson with complete excitement.¬† I couldn’t wait to learn the next thing.¬† To learn half-halting with the reins, how to use the back of my arms. how to two point…

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The beginning of learning the lifting and tilting of two point. Ultimately the up and down of posting in a hunter saddle rests on this. Legs and heels positioned. Pelvis shifting with the up and down.

and…recently…how to post.¬† Hopefully…soon… I will begin learning the seated canter ūüôā

In a hunter saddle, the momentum of the thrust of the horse’s body makes one feel like one is flying. That, plus the perfection of the rhythm of the up, down, up, keeping thighs on saddle and heels balancing the whole mechanism is a perfection of impulse and synchronization that has¬†become addictive.

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Hunter saddle, beginning posting!

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Western treeless saddle! Awesome feel!

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Posting in the western treeless! Pretty much heaven as I see it!

Marianne,¬†in kindness, encouraged my strength, balance and coordination plus my seemingly innate feel for a horse’s body.¬† I don’t know that I truly¬†have those gifts but…

Here’s what I do know:

Through patience, kindness, faith and love of human and horse, this novice horsewoman is beginning to experience a world she could not have even imagined. The profound body connection between human and horse is practically indescribable in words.

From the ashes of my “dread”, the pillar of my¬†joy is growing and building.

Perhaps we can all begin to trust that from the “wrecks” in our lives… hope, kindness, patience and a renewal, better than where we started and beyond what we could have dreamed, are all possible.

I am still very much a novice horsewoman and novice rider. 

Sooo much more to learn! ūüôā

But, oh, the joy of it all!!!

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Fifth Confession: How I Became A Recovering “Horse Annoyer” ;)

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An Unexpected Truth:

One day, early on in her work with me and my two, Trainer Marianne turned to me and in the most matter-of-fact voice said, “Christine, you are annoying your horses.”

After I stopped laughing until tears rolled down my cheeks :), I considered her words and took a quick self-inventory.

Those that know me in person, know that I resemble a big, ol’ Labrador Retriever.¬† I express my joy at seeing someone I care about with huge hugs (the equivalent of a Lab jumping up on someone and licking their face all over).¬† There is¬†much virtual “tail-wagging” in my enthusiasm!¬† I¬†tend to resemble the Lab wagging his tail so ferociously near the living room coffee table¬†decorated with¬†Swarovski crystal figurines that he¬†sends everything shattering to the floor!¬†Just from the pure joy of love ‚̧

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This can be distressing to an introvert or someone who is highly sensitive.¬† Which is funny, because I, too, am an introvert and highly sensitive….I just become a Labrador when I get excited ūüėČ

In the world of horse, this tends to be, to say the least, a disturbing quality.  Horses are slow in their movement.  I am fast with hands flying everywhere.  Horses, being creatures of flight, are always discerning if there is something from which they need to flee.

When I would come up to them, excited, touching, fumbling with halters or lead ropes or just staring because of their amazing beauty, the horse would interpret this as…”something is very wrong and I should flee” or “stop poking and hugging and touching my delicate nose” or ¬†“it’s TOO much sensory input and I’m ANNOYED!”039045

Trainer Marianne, being a kind, gentle soul and somewhat of a horse herself,¬†quietly and persistantly¬†corrected me every time I did something “annoying”.

Here are some examples of how NOT to be annoying to a horse.

1. Approach horses with energy high and a matter of fact attitude.

2. Don’t hesitate in an action, it makes the horse think something is wrong.

3. When leading a horse on the lead rope, don’t keep looking back, it worries them.

4. Don’t stand in front of a horse and stare.¬† It’s irritating to them.¬† They don’t stand like that with each other.

5. Don’t talk so much.¬† Horses communicate with body language.

6. If something like a halter or tack gets tangled while you’re trying to put it on, don’t stand there and fumble.¬† Take it off and pretend you’re fixing it or doing something that has nothing to do with that failed attempt.¬† Then they get curious instead of annoyed.

7.  ALWAYS move slowly.

Then she taught me this…

…there’s nothing more healing to a human than to stand in the crook of a horse’s neck facing out the same way they are facing.¬† Oh how true this is.

In the quiet of a horse’s being, all else is forgotten and one is transported into the profound inner¬†world they inhabit.¬† This feeling, more than any instruction, taught me.

I’ve cuddled, played with, danced with¬†and¬†loved up pets like my cats and dogs with my¬† ”¬†Labrador ways” and it always went well!

Ah, but horses are not that.¬† They have heightened sensitivities, perceptions and a decision making process that says, “Fly first, figure it¬†out later.”¬†¬†It’s probably how they survived as a species¬†for 55 million years or so.

Horses, if we listen, if we humble ourselves to approach them as THEY require being approached, can wordlessly teach us the mysteries of these primeval times which they knew.¬† They can teach us that, perhaps, in all our dealings with others, both human and animal,¬†we can set aside our habitual behaviors.¬† We can act with¬†sensitivity to the being with whom we’re interacting.

We can certainly be much less annoying :)!

I am still “in recovery”.¬† I stumble….a lot.¬† I am humbled….a lot.¬† But recently, the highest compliment ever paid me, which I shall cherish always, came from Trainer Marianne…

…¬† “Christine, you are finally becoming a horse.”

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Fourth Confession: How I Fell In Love Online….With A BLM Brand

Courtesy of Meg Hartman

Beautiful Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

An Unexpected Love…

At the beginning of the Year of the Horse, 2014, while horses were “at the gate” about to¬†gallop into¬†my life,¬†bringing with them¬†undreamed-of joy, I saw a picture on Facebook of a beautiful Mustang mare, Angel,¬†who had been rescued and was needing a forever home.¬† It was love at first sight for me.¬† There are so many intangibles that I can only remotely describe how or why I loved her at first sight.¬† Perhaps it was¬†the pure sweetness and love in her eyes… with a twinkling¬†potential of sassy ūüėČ

Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel! Courtesy of Chris L.

One can only imagine what Chris, the founder of Mustang Rescue Network, thought, when I messaged her almost immediately that I wanted to adopt her!¬† When she questioned me about my horse experience and qualifications to adopt her all I could answer was, “Well, I’m leasing a glorious mare (Serenity)¬†and currently caring for her daily as she had injured herself badly and needs a lot of TLC.¬† But I’m somewhat new to horses…”¬† (Oh yes, Novice Horsewoman indeed!)

I can now imagine Chris gently shaking her wise head and even more gently preparing how to say “No” to me¬†ūüôā¬† Which she did! ¬†But that began a friendship between us, with the sweet Mustang mare as the bridge.

Angel was found in Georgia wandering down a road with many mysteries surrounding how she came to be there.

Angel in the woods. Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel in the woods. Courtesy of Chris L.

Her BLM brand told¬†only a tiny bit of her story. but¬†allowed the Rescue Network to identify her western origins and give an approximation of her age.¬† She had been¬†“gathered” in Nevada in 1996 at approximately 1 year of age and adopted at about¬†1.5 years of age.¬†How she got to Georgia is unknown. When they contacted the person who was¬†currently in possession of her, he claimed her to be an abandoned horse that he knew from working with her for some people in the past. He went to their place to find it empty and figured they had abandoned her near where he usually rode. He seemed to want the best for Angel…

Mustang Rescue Network folk were able to acquire her legally and foster her while they put weight on her and slowly began discerning where she could be happiest in a forever home.

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Angel enjoying her hay! Courtesy of Chris L.

Chris has had mustangs in her heart and soul since she first read¬†Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West¬† ( by Marguerite Henry) as a young girl. She had ridden often with her grandmother and grandfather when young and had had the love-of-her-life horse as a young woman in upstate New York before moving to Georgia.¬† Angel’s appearance in her life began a wonderful series of events which began with her creation of the Mustang Rescue Network.

Over the next few months I began contributing to Angel’s care through the Mustang Rescue Network and Chris and I kept in touch about her progress.¬† I was also privileged to receive extra pictures of her physical progress as she gained her weight back, got some gloss in her coat and began some gentle training.¬†¬†I never stopped hoping that, as I began to get more horse experience, maybe just maybe Chris would eventually let me adopt her!

But life had other ideas¬†;)…

I knew, the minute I actually met Chris and Angel in person in Eatonton, Georgia and played with her in some training games, that as much as I adored this pretty mustang, I wasn’t “the one” for her.¬† Chris was.

Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel and Chris play together. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

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Christine and Angel play together. Courtesy of Chris L.

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Christine receives “Angel Love” in Georgia. ūüíóCourtesy of Chris L.

The months rolled on and each time I went to Georgia I met with Chris and Angel enjoying exquisite times being in the presence of this very special mare.

It never ceased to hurt my heart to see her brand and the scars in her precious face where someone had left a halter on, obviously for years,¬†so that her face also seemed “branded”¬†with these¬†halter scars.¬† However,¬†sweet Angel didn’t seem to notice those things and became more and more herself as she felt safe, nurtured¬†and had her hoof issues tended to.¬† The sassiness, only guessed at from the look¬†in her eyes in early pictures, came out in her personality,¬†which, combined with her sweetness, was completely¬†irresistible!¬† ” Little Miss Sweet and Sassy” (as we nicknamed her) would walk around¬†in her pasture with the cutest little swing in her hips and an adorable swish of her tail.

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Little Miss Sweet and Sassy! Courtesy of Chris L.

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Angel Enjoys Her Life In The Pasture! Courtesy of Chris L.

Anyone and everyone¬†who met Angel, fell in love at first sight. ¬†Since words cannot describe the loveable essence of this beautiful mare, I’m hoping the pictures I include do ūüôā

When I first began writing this story about Angel, I had trouble getting anywhere with it.  I kept procrastinating.

Now I know why…

On many different levels, Chris had trouble conceiving that Angel could and should be hers.¬† It was so interesting to see how happy they each were with each other, how connected, and yet, there seemed to be¬†some unseen¬†barriers that Chris would need to overcome to be able to actually¬† say, “Angel and I belong together”.

Chris patiently and persistently worked through her hesitation.  As Chris came near to working it through, I was  honored to be with them both the day Angel let HER desires be known!

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Angel quietly let Chris know her wishes!

We¬†had been hand¬†grazing Angel and sat down on a log to chat about Angel’s prospects and if Chris was just about at the “place” inside herself where she could see herself adopting her.¬† In an utterly silent yet¬†breathtaking manner,¬†in the course of¬†our conversation, Angel stopped grazing and came and stood right next to Chris, in quiet stillness, for almost a half an hour as we chatted.

In those minutes, I think Chris and I BOTH knew that Angel was stating what she wanted.  To be with Chris as her forever human.

Within a couple of weeks, the last internal barriers were torn down and Chris knew beyond any doubt that she and Angel would spend their lives together. She began the adoption process!

I see now that I couldn’t have finished this story without this joyful conclusion at the end of it ūüôā

Ah yes, INDEED…in life….expect the unexpected!

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Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

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Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

Third Confession Part Two: Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen At Barns :)

Baby Doe and Spirit Under The Stars! Artist: Merel Burggraaf (www.merelburggraaf.com)

UNEXPECTED LESSONS ABOUT ADVERSITY, GOOD FORTUNE AND HUMAN NATURE

In Part 1 of this post, I think I firmly established that the dirty little secrets at barns have very little to do with manure or rolls in the hay ūüėČ but have everything to do with human nature in all its aspects.

I also described the journey of acknowledging the seeds of joy in each adverse situation, while knowing that bubbling quietly under the calm waters of good fortune, adversity can be just beneath the surface.   It is all part of the balance of life.

As life at the “fancy” barn became increasingly more intolerable for Spirit, Baby Doe and me, a final incident, described in the last post, gave me the tipping point I needed to help convince¬†trainer Bryan help me to get my two out of there!¬† And, simultaneously, events were occurring at the barn where I had once leased the glorious mare, Serenity, that opened up two stalls and had Felice, my former barn buddy, becoming manager of that barn.

Within a week, my two were trailered and moved.

As a “parting shot” from the fancy barn, an ugly situation occurred that erased any doubt from Bryan’s or my mind regarding leaving.¬† Bryan had been fostering orphaned baby ducks on the property.¬† As they grew¬†bigger, more ducks¬†were joining the flock.¬† They were Muskogee ducks, not indigenous to Florida and¬†many people are not pleased with their presence in our lakes and canals.¬† Still, they are God’s creatures, too.¬† The owner of the barn felt the presence of the ducks was hurting his chances at getting offers on his barn.

One day, without consulting Bryan, he had some “men” come up from Miami, and there, at the barn, within earshot and sight lines of the horses, they strangled half these ducks to death and carted them off in their truck.¬† (Probably to cook up at some restaurant for unsuspecting patrons.)¬† Even writing about this, eight months later, causes waves of nausea, disgust and deep sadness to wash over me.

The next few months¬†at Felice’s barn were, what I like to term, the “I Love Lucy’ months ūüôā

Baby Doe Reunites With Her Full Brother, Fritz, While Spirit Sticks His Sweet Nose Into Their Reunion :)

Baby Doe Reunites With Her Full Brother, While Spirit Sticks His Sweet Nose Into Their Reunion ūüôā

Felice had never managed a barn before and though it was only her Paint gelding (who, by the way is full brother to Baby Doe), my two, and a 20-year-old, noble gelding named Gismo, four horses are still a lot of horses!!!!

We worked together, with her husband, made our mistakes (MANY mistakes), had our triumphs and epiphanies. Luckily, nobody died and¬†the booboos that occurred were all fixable.¬†Still, in the course of this, there were so many moments, that, had they been filmed, would have looked like “I Love Lucy” episodes, that we found ourselves laughing more than crying ūüôā

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Spirit Taking A Sunbath ūüôā

It was a peaceful time.

It was a wondrous time, as well. Felice and I began having groups of her special needs, autistic students come to the barn and interact with the horses on field trips.¬† Every Saturday, there were at least 3 or 4 special needs kids that came¬†to the barn to¬†help us¬†scoop manure, bleach water buckets, lay shavings and just laugh, enjoying the horses’ antics.

Greeting Baby Doe

Greeting Baby Doe

Angel Paints Beautiful Pictures On Patient Gismo During Our "Barn Field Trips"

A Student Paints Beautiful Pictures On Patient Gismo During Our “Barn Field Trips”

Yet under the surface of the peace of these months, seeds of adversity were slowly maturing.

Unbeknownst to us, the owner of the property was looking to list it and sell.

We¬†were finding¬†we couldn’t give the horses turnout unsupervised, because the fencing was so rotted out that they could have gotten out, or worse, really injured themselves.¬† It was too cost /time prohibitive for us to replace it and the owner refused.

There just wasn’t enough grazing available.¬† The horses were getting increasingly¬†irritable and restless, being in their stalls long hours.

Riding The Trails At Treetops Park. Baby Doe Is Directly Behind Me And Spirit.

Riding The Trails At Treetops Park. Baby Doe Is Directly Behind Me And Spirit.

So, even though we had the superb advantage of acres of trails just outside the back gate, my two, at least, were having issues.¬†There was not¬†enough structure. Trainer Bryan didn’t get there as often as promised. Their youth required more experience than this Novice possesses.¬†They were¬†exhibiting increasing restlessness that would sometimes cause erratic behavior on the trails.¬†Some differences in philosophy between Felice and me resulted in inconsistent human behavior with them.

The¬†sleepy seeds of adversity began sprouting above the ground when, at the first of the year, two new boarders took up residence at Felice’s barn, bringing their wonderful horses as well as their own¬†big personalities and personal issues.

On the surface, it looked like good fortune because these women were very experienced horsewomen, with experience with young horses!  Given that, by now, trainer Bryan had his hands completely full at a new barn with students and horses and no longer had time for me, it looked like fortune had smiled.

However, the¬†next two months¬†became a kaleidoscope¬†of disparate energies.¬†There seemed to be¬†a¬†team of outspoken “barn¬†know-it-alls” coming up against me. My horses began¬†displaying more irritable, aggressive behaviors.¬† Time after time, I found myself¬†not listening to my inner voice, sobbing through bouts of anxiety and not standing up for my truth.

Ah, but then…one day…it was finally ENOUGH! ¬†I, FINALLY,¬†stood up for¬†my¬†truth. I “made the fist”.

One by one, with each human, I set boundaries (with kindness)¬†as to what I would and wouldn’t do; as well as what they were allowed to do¬†to me and my horses; or¬†say to me and my horses. Oh, what a difference TRUTH makes!

Within a week, a new trainer came into my life who was everything I could have hoped for.  She and I are completely in sync with our philosophies and instincts about horses. Only she has the years of experience, knowledge and training that this Novice may not achieve in this lifetime.

Everything, EVERYTHING changed for me, Baby Doe and Spirit.  I will look forward to telling these stories in future posts!

Then, good fortune truly opened up the floodgates.  The owner of the property had found buyers.  Shortly thereafter, in a single 24-hour period, the owner declared that once she closed on the property, the new buyers, with NO horse experience whatsoever, planned to take over management of the barn!

Loading Up To Go To Cameo

Baby Doe Loading To Go To Cameo

Spirit Being Just A Wee Bit Stubborn Loading For Cameo :)

Spirit Being Just A Wee Bit Stubborn Loading For Cameo ūüôā

Yet again, I¬†had my two out of there within¬†the week!¬† God’s good grace and trainer Marianne found us the two last places at Cameo Farms.

Cameo Farms, where things are peaceful and well managed with an experienced older couple. Cameo Farms, where there are acres and acres of pasture and turnout.¬† Where my two now sleep under the stars and graze to their horsey hearts’ content.¬† Cameo Farms, where trainer Marianne lives just a block away and has “adopted” us…me and my two… seeing us in such need of care and comforting.¬† Cameo Farms, where in just a few weeks’ time, my two are blossoming with contentment and becoming their true horsey selves.

Such joy.

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Baby Doe Under “Baby Doe’s Tree”. The Tree Seems To Lean Over Her Protectively ūüôā

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What A Very Happy Appy, Spirit!

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Adversity could be fomenting even as I write this.¬† I read recently that God sectioned off our days into 24 hours because our¬†human frailty cannot bear more than that at one time ūüôā

However, this I know.¬†Joy is always undergirding every adversity, every trouble in our lives.¬†¬†I gird myself with faith, hope and love as I continue on¬†this journey of horses and… LIFE!

Afterword:  I had commissioned a water color painting of my two from Dutch artist, Merel Burggraaf, since it is hard to get photos of the two of them together. Check out her website at: http://www.MerelBurggraaf.com.  She is an exquisite and very intuitive artist.

All these barn changes were happening as she quietly worked on the painting¬†off of pictures and videos of Spirit and Baby Doe.¬† I hadn’t told her anything about what was happening.¬† So imagine my delighted astonishment when she sent me a photo of the painting she’s done.¬† There they are, Baby Doe and Spirit, happily grazing¬†under the stars!

Just as they are doing in real life now ūüôā

Artist: Merel Burggraaf (www.merelburggraff.com)

Artist: Merel Burggraaf

Second Confession: How I Became Obsessed With Horse Manure :)

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Unexpected illness, unexpected obsession:

A week after the exquisite mare, Baby Doe, became mine, I arrived at the barn for a simple Saturday of grooming, playing with and riding my two beloved horses.¬† When I entered and saw Baby Doe‚Äôs stall empty, I thought trainer Bryan¬†was working with her and I¬†went out to the arena, only to see trainer¬†Bryan, on the grass, walking Baby Doe in a circle swiftly.¬† ‚ÄúShe‚Äôs colicking‚ÄĚ, he said.¬† ‚ÄúNo worries, I‚Äôve given her Banamine and have been walking her for more than half an hour.¬† We can‚Äôt let her lie down.¬†She‚Äôll be fine.‚ÄĚ

But she wasn’t.

We needed to see some (for want of a better word) manure coming from her.  It wasn’t.  No problem. We just needed to walk her more.  Which we did for two more hours.

Anyone familiar with horses knows that colic is a very real potential of a death sentence. I couldn’t even fathom this at that time.  All I could do was…walk her.

No manure.

A call to the vet was made, who turned out to be the substitute vet. She is a wonderful vet.  With the heat and abundant thunderstorms this summer in South Florida, many horses were colicking and vets were busy.  Add to that, my beloved girl, Baby Doe, had only arrived from Illinois less than two months ago and was still processing that stress.

With the vet‚Äôs arrival¬†the ‚Äúbaptism by fire‚ÄĚ both for humans and for horse began.

The hours of invasive procedures on my Girl were started. To begin with, they had to tranquilize her in order to shove a tube down her nose and pour down a gallon of water, followed by a gallon of mineral oil.

More walking.

More waiting.

There were two anal exams to see what her organs were doing.  Each of which could have caused a septic rupture…

By 11 o’clock that night it became clear that she had displaced her intestines to the left. Good news, because had they displaced to the right, we would have had to put her down within hours to save her from excruciating, unfixable pain.

Then came the next procedure. ..intravenously fill her with fluids for an hour, administer a med that would shrink her spleen for fifteen minutes, during which time we would longe the heck out of her in order for her intestines to hop over the spleen and get back into place.

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Oh, my Baby Doe, my Girl, you have a mission to fulfill! You and I agreed you didn’t want to be a show horse. You made it possible, by having that hitch in your right shoulder, for me to be your human partner in this life, so that you could minister to those in need…disabled, disadvantaged, special needs, those in sorrow, those who need the healing presence of Horse…

What a faithful creature she was as she, in indescribable pain, was longed, valiantly trotting and loping in the hot humid night.029

The all night barn vigil now commenced.

Humidity intensified, mosquitos got busy, the stars radiated and trainer Bryan and I found some lawn chairs, placed them by her stall and settled in for what was to be a long night at the barn.

I am still trying to find words to describe the various experiences of this night.

First, there was the anxious worry.  He and I took turns standing by her stall, looking for a sign of manure, trying to comfort her in her agonizing pain.

My sweet, loving Girl had turned into a wild savage that bit and kicked if we got near her.  She was flailing her head and pacing. Her ears were ever flat on her head.

Neither Bryan nor I slept a wink.

Eventually the lights turned out.  The horses settled in for the night.  And a kind of magic occurred which one only experiences in a barn in the wee hours of the night.

The silence was exquisite. Punctuated only by snorts and shufflings of the horses. We could hear a background lullaby of crickets and cicadas outdoors.  As I peeked into each stall, I saw horse after horse lying down in a deep sleep.  My boy horse, my Appaloosa, Spirit, had sprawled out in his stall, sound asleep and looking like a baby colt.  I couldn’t take my eyes off that dearness.

Each hour, trainer Bryan, going above and beyond any expectation, would lead my Baby Doe out to walk her for a half an hour or so.  I would drag myself out of my lawn chair to be present, but couldn’t have begun to muster the energy Bryan did… hour after hour.

In those late night, star-filled  moments, it was confirmed to me that there are truly people of honor walking this earth and that I was blessed to experience his caring and indefatiguable soul.

At 5 a.m. the first sign of manure!  I don’t know when manure has EVER made me so happy!

But we weren’t out of the woods yet.   At 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. more relief for the Girl in the way of manure!  We cautiously celebrated and took turns going back to our homes for showers and changes of clothing.

However, when I got back to the barn later that afternoon, the roller coaster ride of the past 24 hours took another dip.  She had gone hours now with no more sign of manure relief.  It could be that her intestines were still displaced to the left.  We might have to repeat the whole procedure.

Trainer Bryan called the vet.  She suggested letting her run free for awhile in a pasture, without overheating, and then to hand graze her for about 15 minutes.

As I watched my glorious Girl run, buck, leap and play, looking like the regal faerie horse she is, her whiteness contrasting with the deep green of pasture grass, I knew that this was no longer a horse that was ill.

After grazing her, I took her back into her stall to cool her off and…immediate success in the manure department!  It was proof positive that her intestines were back in place and the procedure had unequivocally worked!

My darling Baby Doe, thank you for your courage, patience, acceptance and profound soul.  You healed so many parts of me that night as I was privileged to be part of your healing. Thank you. 739

First Confession: Part Two (How I Went From No Horse To Two Horses In Less Than A Year:)

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Oh yes! More unexpected was just around the corner!

Part Two:

When I left off in Part One…

I had¬† been describing the devastation and grief I experienced when the glorious mare, Serenity, had been moved to another barn.¬† Just for the record, even writing about it now brings up fresh grief added to ongoing anxiety over her well being.¬†¬†For so many reasons, it¬†was and still is tough to visit her at her new barn.¬† Not the least of which is the sadness that overwhelms when I have to say goodbye and leave.¬† She’s been on my mind so much lately.¬† I try to comfort myself with the words my best friend continually says to me, “Christine, you can’t save them all”.¬† Cold comfort.

However,¬†just as she was being moved, I was being introduced to Horse Number One!¬† The adorable, ueber-intelligent, mischievous, big-hearted, three-year-old Appaloosa gelding, Spirit!¬† He “had me at¬† hello”. Or should¬†I say “…at nicker” ūüôāphoto (8)

My barn buddy, Phyllis, had introduced me to trainer Bryan, because once Serenity was virtually lost to me, I was going to begin looking at rescue horses.  She thought Bryan could help me.

Wiser heads convinced me that perhaps I should explore getting to know whole and healthy horses before dealing with horses in need.¬† Gee, why didn’t I think of that? ūüôā So when Bryan introduced me to Spirit, I easily agreed with the wiser heads.¬†¬†The one problem being¬†Bryan wasn’t so sure that he would sell me the little Boy.

There is a saying in the horse world, “green on green equals black and blue”.¬† In other words, pairing me up with a virtual baby, when I was so very inexperienced, could be difficult and dangerous. Bryan was training him daily and giving me lessons weekly for the next few weeks.¬† Then he had me ride Spirit for my lessons and observed how good he was for me under saddle.¬† Even if he had a horsey jump/flinch or spook, somehow¬†the little Boy¬†kept me on him.¬† (This has held true in the ensuing months as well).WP_20141005_15_22_53_Pro__highres

With ongoing training promised, Bryan finally agreed that Spirit could be mine.

In the meantime, just about every horse person I knew was shaking their head in concern that I would be dealing with a three year old; which did NOTHING for my confidence!  Looking back, perhaps they were right.  But it was already too late for me.  I loved that little gelding wholeheartedly.  With lots of prayer, and in humility, I went forward with buying him.

Eight months later, I am still getting a daily education on the three year old horsey mindset and there’s been a bit of black and blue – nothing more than a broken toe and a few bruises ūüôā¬†Perhaps part of the “accelerated plan” our Creator has¬†for me was just this:¬†how to deal with an intelligent, energetic, clever, lovebug of a baby horse.

As Spirit was still boarding at Bryan’s barn, I had the opportunity to get to know many other horses in my time there and just happened to be there the day after an exquisite Paint¬†mare, at that time named Sylvia, arrived from a farm in Illinois.

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She was five years old, had¬†had some fine training, had been in pasture for a couple of years and¬†was coming to Bryan to be trained up (“finished”)¬†to be a show horse and¬†be sold.¬† Her¬†“family tree” is a an impeccable list of million dollar horses and she was to be sold for top dollar¬†after Bryan¬†did the finishing of her.

When I met her, she was still tranquilized,very still, quiet and shut down.¬† I offered her some baby carrots.¬† People poking their heads into her stall told me she wouldn’t eat them because she wasn’t used to treats.¬†¬† After a half an hour of speaking to her softly, petting her and letting her smell the carrots, even in her shut down state, she ate them ūüôā Of course!¬† She’s a horse!

She began getting more animated in the week that followed.  I would spend lots of time with her as well as with Spirit.  She would even whinny, calling out to me, when she saw me coming for a ride on Spirit.

Then one day, she and I were just having some pet and scratch time and suddenly¬†it was as though I heard a tiny voice in my head.¬† “Please, I don’t WANT to be a show horse”.¬† I gasped because this sentence was so clear and audible.¬† I looked at her and said aloud, “I can’t afford you sweet Girl.¬† But I will do everything in my power to honor your request.”

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Thus began the saga of Baby Doe….

Coming soon…Part Three ūüôā